Implementing new strategies to manage pre-trial defendants can be challenging. The process requires investment from a wide range of local stakeholders and intensive work to change the culture of local systems. For counties interested in new pretrial strategies, first and foremost, it is important to recognize that the process takes extensive time and energy. One report on pretrial detention and community supervision best practices and resources describes some challenges jurisidctions may face when implenting pretrial programs:
Lack of Support Across and Throughout Criminal Justice Agencies
Any significant change in practices in local criminal justice systems has to be supported and understood by all of the partners in the criminal justice system. Leaders implementing change can encounter problems when individual agencies refrain from supporting the change or instruct their staff to disregard the change. Additionally, problems can arise when agency leaders support changes that staff within their agencies are either unfamiliar with or do not support. Internal education and dialogue is key.
Bring all stakeholders to the table. This may include law enforcement, jail administrators, judges, court administrators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim advocates, elected officials, and subject matter experts. Many jurisdictions have had success implementing changes by bringing all of the stakeholders together from the beginning of the process. This provides the opportunity for a broader group of key stakeholder to have ownership in the success of the reform. This means that instead of a few individuals responding to concerns raised, the broader group can participate in identifying concerns and creating solutions to address them. In this way potential problems are identified early on and strategies to address them are integrated into the plan and its implementation.
Lack of Understanding Among Local Elected Officials
Criminal justice agencies often understand details of criminal justice policies and practices but much of it can go beyond the knowledge base of local elected officials. If local elected officials are not familiar with the reasons for the policy shift, they may not provide the support necessary to finance the change or build public support for the change. It is important to help decision-makers and community leaders understand the evidence base for the change, expected outcomes, data that will be collected and analyzed to measure results, and quality improvement efforts to improve results. This will assist in gaining the political support that may be needed to adopt and implement the new program.
Lack of Integrated Data Systems
Advancing a new pretrial approach requires that systems across agencies talk to each other and share relevant data. Counties run into implementation problems when their data systems and data sharing approaches are in silos. Each part of the criminal justice system must rely on information and data from other entities to effectively implement its responsibilities. Officials should consider early on how best to share information and data systems, including identifying effective partnerships to improve access and management of critical information. Fefer to the Data Needs for further discussion.
Lack of Community Infrastructure
Managing pre-trial defendants in the community can be enhanced with community programs that help ensure pretrial defendants avoid problems before trial. Many jurisdictions lack substantive community programs. This can make it difficult for criminal justice agencies to partner with existing organizations.
Lack of Community Support
Residents want and deserve safety. Without sufficient information and access to dialogue with public safety leaders, they can misunderstand the intent behind changes in criminal justice system practices and policies. They need to be a part of the process to develop support for more effective strategies to manage pre- trial defendants. Developing effective communication strategies is key step in pretrial implementation.
Residents want and deserve safety. Without sufficient information and access to dialogue with public safety leaders, they can misunderstand the intent behind changes in criminal justice system practices and policies. They need to be a part of the process to develop support for more effective strategies to manage pre- trial defendants.
The Pretrial Justice Institute has developed several resources for developing effective communication strategies. First, PJI's Media Toolkit contains a pretrial justice reform message guide, press protocols, potential reporter questions, and several templates for addressing the issue in the media. PJI's guidelines for champions & spokespeople addresses specific aspects of pretrial reform, bail fundamentals, risk assessment basics, findings from public opinion polls, recent research findings, and talking points about pretrial directed at different audiences. And finally, Responses to Claims About Money Bail for Criminal Justice Decision-Makers addresses miconceptions about the money bail system and pretrial reform.